Yesterday, I posed a few questions: When a child, say 3 to 6 years old, is scared of the monster in their closet, what do we tell them? How do we react?What do we point to about the nature of fear? Where does it come from?
So how would you deal with this situation? Would you tell a child fears are not OK and must be dealt with swiftly?
Would you hand a child a magic potion or a protective amulet and expect it to work long-term to help them understand fears?
Would you send a child to boot camp to train them to increase strength and toughness to defeat monsters?
If you moved to a bigger house with bigger closets, and the child assumed the bigger closets held bigger monsters, would you then send them to more boot camp to get even stronger and tougher?
My guess is that you would respond very accurately and logically by smiling, telling the child that monsters do not exist, and reassuring them that the fear will disappear.
Monsters do not exist. Something that does not exist certainly has no power to scare us, so fear cannot be caused by monsters. What causes children fear are thoughts about monsters.
Fearing monsters may seem silly to us, but we do the same thing when we believe a score on the scoreboard is causing us to feel pressure or the pile of work on the desk is causing us to feel stressed. Nobody (literally no body or living thing) and nothing (literally no thing or situation) can cause a specific thought or feeling response in all of us. Our individual and momentary thoughts about those people and things are what cause the feeling.
If you believe something outside you causes you fear, there is a very high likelihood you are going to remind yourself of that belief in that thing’s presence and feel fear. The thing is not causing your fear. Your thought/belief is.
If you believe something outside you causes you stress, there is a very high likelihood you are going to remind yourself of that belief in that thing’s presence and feel stress. The thing is not causing your stress. Your thought/belief is.
Fear is a normal feeling. It naturally follows worried thinking, surprise, confusion, and uncertainty. Further, it doesn’t have to be dealt with or trained out of existence. It will disappear without any intervention, and the better we understand the source of the fear as thoughts rather than some outside source, the less we will believe we are in the grips of an outside force that has control over us.
By exposing this illusion of external control, we gain freedom.
By remembering that we are imperfect and will forget the nature of fear from time to time, we gain freedom over the belief that we must be perfect and in control of ourselves. It is perfectly fine to let thoughts and feelings arise and subside as they will. Doing battle with them is what exhausts us and drives us to distraction.
There’s no need to fight monsters or our own reactions.